Singapore’s health ministry said early clinical observations globally suggest that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may be more transmissible and have a higher risk of reinfection than the Delta and Beta variants of the virus. “This means that there is a higher probability that people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be re-infected with the Omicron variant,” the ministry said on Sunday, as quoted by Channel News Asia, in an update on the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, the city-state reported another “preliminary positive” Omicron case on Sunday. The 37-year-old vaccinated permanent resident was on the same flight as two other “preliminary positive” cases that landed here from South Africa on December 1. Singapore also reported 552 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday. .
The ministry said it had, over the past few days, reviewed reports from South Africa and other countries, and actively engaged experts in affected countries to gain first-hand information. “This press release updates our understanding of the Omicron variant, although many questions remain unanswered,” the Department of Health quoted.
With the new variant spreading globally, Singapore “should expect to detect more cases at our borders and, in time to come, also within our community,” the health ministry warned. Studies to determine whether existing COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the new variant are underway, but “there is an emerging opinion among scientists around the world that existing COVID-19 vaccines will still work on the Omicron variant,” especially to protect people from serious illnesses. , said the Ministry of Health.
The ministry urged those eligible to get vaccinated or have their booster shots, saying there is a strong scientific consensus that this will protect against all existing and future variants of COVID-19. Responding to concerns about the severity of the strain of the virus, the health ministry said Omicron cases have “mostly shown mild symptoms and no Omicron-related deaths have been reported until. here”.
Common symptoms reported include sore throat, fatigue and cough, the ministry added. As for reports that there were more Omicron-related hospitalizations among young people in South Africa, the ministry said this could be due to a high overall infection rate among the population.
Another factor could be that existing patients hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 could have tested positive for the variant in hospital. “Having said that, it is early to conclude on the severity of the disease,” the Department of Health said. The Omicron outbreak was first detected in a college town with a younger population.
Hospital stays for this demographic group have so far been short, around one to two days, according to South African health experts. The health ministry said it would need to collect more information on older people infected with the Omicron variant to assess whether it is more severe than the Delta variant.
The ministry said studies so far show that rapid antigen tests, in addition to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, are effective in detecting COVID-19 infection, including cases Omicron. “Testing therefore remains the key to our early detection and our initial containment of transmission,” added the Ministry of Health.
The ministry also said it “will continue to coordinate with health authorities around the world to study and understand the Omicron variant, in order to develop the best possible response.” The Health Ministry’s update comes after two imported cases in Singapore tested “preliminary positive” for the Omicron COVID-19 variant on Thursday.
The passengers were isolated after arriving from South Africa on a Singapore Airlines flight on December 1 and had no interaction with the community, the ministry said last week. Both were fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms of cough and sore throat. The results of their confirmatory tests are still pending, the health ministry said.
The pre-departure test for the third case in Johannesburg on November 29 was negative for COVID-19, the health ministry said. He was taken to a home stay notification facility upon arrival in Singapore, and his December 1 and 3 PCR tests came back negative, the ministry said.
He developed a fever and sore throat on Dec. 4 and was taken to the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID), where he tested “preliminarily positive” for the Omicron variant, the Department of Health said. The man is fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms. He is currently recovering in an isolation ward at NCID, the health ministry said, adding that “he had not interacted with the community and there is currently no evidence of community transmission. from the case “.
The National Public Health Laboratory performs whole genome sequencing to confirm the variant. Singapore reported 2,69,211 COVID-19 cases and 759 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday since the pandemic began last year.